Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Collateral kin: Celia Artis and family.

As noted previously, there is no known relationship between Celia Artis and my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis, though it is likely that most free colored Artises shared a common ancestor in the misty mists of time. Like, the late 17th century. Celia’s family and Adam’s family were among several sets of Artises living in northeastern Wayne County in the antebellum era, and they intermarried and otherwise interacted regularly. Here’s what I know of Celia Artis and her descendants.

Celia Artis was born just before 1800, presumably in Wayne County. Nothing is known of her parentage or early life. She married an enslaved man named Simon and gave birth to at least six children. In 1823, she gave complete control over her oldest children to two white neighbors, brothers (or father and son) Elias and Jesse Coleman, in a dangerously worded deed that exceeded the scope of typical apprenticeship indentures: This indenture this 16th day of August 1823 between Celia Artis of the County of Wayne and state of North Carolina of the one part, and Elias and Jesse Coleman of the other part (witnesseth) that I the said Celia Artis have for an in consideration of having four of my children raised in a becoming [illegible], by these presence indenture the said four children (to viz) Eliza, Ceatha, Zilpha, and Simon Artis to the said Elias and Jesse Coleman to be their own right and property until the said four children arives at the age of twenty one years old and I do by virtue of these presents give and grant all my right and power over said children the above term of time, unto the said Elias and Jesse Coleman their heirs and assigns, until the above-named children arives to the aforementioned etc., and I do further give unto the said Elias and Jesse Coleman all power of recovering from any person or persons all my right to said children — the [illegible] of time whatsoever in whereof I the said Celia Artis have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written,    Celia X Artis.

Despite the “own right and property” language, Celia did not sell her children exactly, but what drove her to this extreme measure? Because she was not legally married, her children were subject to involuntary apprenticeship until age 21. This deed records her determination to guard her children from uncertain fates by placing them under the control of men she trusted, rather than those selected by the court.

Despite the deed’s verbiage, it is likely that the children continued to live with their mother during their indenture. Certainly, Celia, unlike many independent women of the era, had the wherewithal to care for them, as evidenced by her purchase of 10 acres from Spias Ward in 1833. Wayne County deeds further show purchases of 124 acres and 24 acres from W[illiam] Thompson in 1850 and 1855.

By 1840, Celia Artis was head of a household of eight free people of color in Black Creek district, Wayne County — one woman aged 36-54; three girls aged 10-23 [Eliza, Leatha, Zilpha]; one girl under 10 [unknown]; two boys aged 10-23 [Calvin and Simon]; and one boy under 10 [Thomas].

In the 1850 census, she was enumerated on the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County, as a 50 year-old with children Eliza, 34, Zilpha, 28, Thomas, 15, and Calvin, 20, plus 6 year-old Lumiser, who was probably Eliza’s daughter. Celia is credited with owning $600 of real property (deeds for much of which went unrecorded), and the agricultural schedule for that year details her wealth:

  • Celia Artis.  50 improved acres, 700 unimproved acres, value $600. Implements valued at $25. 2 horses. 1 ass or mule. 1 ox. 21 other cattle. 40 sheep. 500 swine. 500 bushels of Indian corn. 100 lbs. of rice. 2 lbs. of tobacco. 100 lbs. of wool. 100 bushels of peas and beans. 200 bushels of sweet potatoes.

She also appears in the 1850 Wayne County slave schedule, which records her (and another free woman of color Rhoda Reed’s) ownership of their husbands:

1850 slave sched Celia ARtis

In 1860, in a surprise move, the census taker listed Simon Pig Artis, Celia’s husband, as the head of household. If he’d been freed formally, there’s no record of it. (Simon Pig’s nickname is explained here.) He is also listed as the 70 year-old owner of $800 of real property and $430 of personal property — all undoubtedly purchased by Celia. Their household included son Thomas, daughter Zilpha, and granddaughters Lumizah, 17, and Penninah, 11. On one side of the family: the widower Adam T. Artis, his three children, his sister and her child; on the other: Celia and Simon’s son Calvin, his wife Serena [maiden name Seaberry, and a cousin of Adam’s next wife Frances Seaberry], and their four children. Other neighbors included Lemuel Edmundson.

The 1863 Confederate field map below indicates “C. Artis” near Watery Branch and “L. Edmundson.” (The stars mark the creek and the towns of Stantonsburg and “Martinsville,” now Eureka.) The family’s cemetery remains on that land, as marked in the second map. (Watery Branch is perhaps a mile south along Watery Branch Road. And Diggs Chapel, presumably, is connected to the family. See Eliza Artis, below. The road visible below Celia’s name on the 1863 map was probably the precursor of Watery Branch Church Road.) Conf Field Map 2

Watery Branch

During the Civil War, both Celia Artis and her son Calvin were assessed taxes by the Confederate state government in the form of tithed crops. In December 1863, Celia had to hand over a tenth of her 2500 pounds of cured fodder to support the war effort.

celia artis conf

Neither Celia nor Simon appears in the 1870 census. It seems likely that Celia was alive for at least a few more years, however, as her estate was not opened until 1879. It was surprisingly small, suggesting that she had distributed most her land and valuables (or otherwise lost them) before her death. Son Thomas is listed as the sole heir to her $200 estate. I don’t know what became of Simon Pig.


Here’s what I know of Celia Artis’ children:

  • Eliza Artis was born circa 1816. She never married but had at least three daughters, Loumiza, Frances and Penina Artis. Descendants assert that the father of some or all of them was James Yelverton, a white farmer who lived nearby. Loumiza is known only from the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Frances was born about 1845. She never married but had at least two children, Sula and Margaret, allegedly by Wilson (or William) Diggs, whom she married in Wayne County on 15 October 1868. (Margaret’s daughters Etta and Minnie Diggs married William M. Artis and Leslie Artis, respectively, a son and grandson of Adam T. Artis. Sula’s daughter Lizzie Olivia married Leslie Artis’ brother Odell.) Penina, born about 1849, married James Newsome. Eliza’s will was filed in Wayne County:

In the Name of God Amen: I Eliza Artis of the County of Wayne and State of North Carolina being of sound mind and memory and considering the uncertainty of human life do therefore make Publish and declare this to be my last Will and testament: That is to say first after all my burial expenses are paid and discharged the residue of my estate. I give and bequeath and dispose of as follows to wit to John Newsom son of James Newsom and Penina Newsom Four Dollars to Francis Diggs all the balance of my personal and real estate that I may be in Possession of at my death during her Natural life and after the death of said Francis Diggs all of said Personal and real estate is to be equally divided between Francis Diggs’s three children Sula Artis Margrett Diggs and William Diggs Likewise I make constitute and appoint Noble Exum and George Exum to be my Executors to this my last Will and testament hereby revoking all former wills made by me In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed my seal this the eleventh day of February in the year of our lord one Thousand eight hundred and Ninety  Eliza X Artice {seal} In the presence of Witnesses John H. Skinner, R.H. X Locus  Hand-written notation in margin: “See Book No 32 Page 320 Register of Deeds Office” [Wayne County Will Book 1, page 524]



  • Letha Ann Artis (the “Ceatha” above) was born about 1820 and married John Artis. They lived in the Eureka area of Wayne County and their children included Sarah Artis, Zachary/Zachariah Artis, James Artis, Mildly Artis Baker (whose grandson Richard V. Baker married Lillie Odessa Artis, daughter of Henry J.B. Artis and granddaughter of Adam T. Artis), William Thomas Artis, Elizabeth Artis Brantham, and Jackson Artis. Letha Ann died circa 1896.

I Lethy Ann Artice of Nahunta Township, State of North Carolina being of sound mind and memory, do declare this to be my last will and testament. I give and bequeath to my son James Artice Five acres of land known as my fathers place to have to hold through his natural life, after his death to Maggie Artis his daughter. But should she want to live on said land before his death, I give her a right, so to do. I give and bequeath to Luby Baker and Anna Baker the children of Mildly Baker Four acres provided Mildly Baker shall be guardian for said children until they reach their majority. I give and bequeath to Bettie Bradford and Brantham Five acres land to have and to hold their natural life afterwards to their heirs. I give and bequeath to Zachary Artice Five acres land. I give and bequeath to John and Octavius the sons of Thomas Artis my son Four acres land if they should want to sell each other all right but no one else. I give and bequeath to Zachary his fathers chest. All heirs to pay Zachary Artice for burial expenses Sarah & Jackson, before coming in possession of the property I give. I also give to Zachary the big pot, I also give him his house, no matter on whose land it falls on. Be it understood I have already given Zachary ½ acre during my life time. I also gave Thomas Two Dollars and a Bull. I also give Baker a cow and calf, Betsey two Dollars I say this to show what I have given. Betsey and Mildly I give one bed a piece, my large bed to be divided between Tom & Zachary. I also give Maggie Artice James daughter, Sarahs chest. I also give the [illegible] and gear to Scintha Ann Artice. All the heirs, with Scintha Ann take my wearing clothes also House furniture also. But should Zachary want any particular thing, as he been my protector let him have it I appoint I.F. Ormond Executor of this will. In witness whereof I Letha Ann Artice have herewith set my hand and seal This 9th day of Oct 1892   Letha Ann X Artice Subscribed by the testator in the presence of each of us and declared by her to be the last will testament Witnesses   J.H. Skinner, Noble Exum  [Wayne County Will Book 2, page 184; proved 2 January 1897, Superior Court, Wayne County]


  • Zilpha Artis was born in the 1820s. She never married and had no known children. She died in 1882, leaving this will:

Know all men by these presents that I Zilpha Artis of the County of Wayne and State of North Carolina being of sound mind and memory but considering the uncertainty of life do make and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following that is to say. That my Executor Philip Fort shall provide for my body a decent burial according to the wishes of my relatives and friend and pay all funeral expenses together with my just debts to whomsoever due out of the money that may first come into his as a part or parcel of my estate. I give and devise to my niece Francis Diggs all of my entire lands and all my household and Kitchen furniture to have and to hold to her the said Francis Diggs for and during the time of her natural life and after her death to be equally divided between her two children Sula Artis and Margaret Diggs their heirs and assigns forever I give and bequeath to my Sister Eliza Artis the sum of fifty cents I give and bequeath to my Sister Leatha Artis the sum of fifty cents I give and bequeath to Brother Calvin Artis the sum of fifty cents And I give and bequeath to my brother Thomas Artis the sum of fifty cents And lastly I do hereby appoint and constitute Phillip Fort my lawful executor to all intents and purposes to execute this my last will and testament according to the true intent and meaning of the same and every part and clause therein hereby revoking and declaring utterly void all other wills and testaments by me heretofore made. In testimony whereof I the said Zilpha Artis do hereunto set my hand and seal this 19th day of November A.D. 1881    Zilpha X Artis {seal} Signed and sealed in the presence of B.J. Person, John B. Person [Wayne County Will Book 1, page 245; proved 20 September 1882, Probate Court, Wayne County]


  • Simon Artis. I’ve found no record of Simon after his 1823 indenture to the Colemans.


  • Calvin Artis, known as Calv Pig, was born about 1830. In 1853, he married Serena Seaberry, daughter of Theophilus and Rachel Smith Seaberry and a cousin of Adam Artis’ wife (and my great-great-great-grandmother) Frances Seaberry Artis. Their children were Martha Artis Locus, Polly Artis, James Madison Artis (who married Adam T. Artis’ oldest daughter Caroline Coley), Henry T. Artis, Nettie Artis Exum, Ellen Artis, Talitha Artis, Simon Artis, and Jeffersonia Artis. Calvin seems to have died between 1880 and 1900.



Federal population, agricultural and slave schedules;Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865, National Archives and Record Administration; Deeds, Register of Deeds Office, Wayne County Courthouse, Goldsboro; Will Books, Office of Clerk of Superior Court, Wayne County Courthouse, Goldsboro.


31 thoughts on “Collateral kin: Celia Artis and family.

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  6. Kathie Bogue says:

    Our families were next door neighbors! In 1800s in Wayne County! I have been dying to find some Artis descendants, found this by googling Diggs Chapel. My husband is a Bogue, and descended from those Colemans I think. Please contact me at

  7. James A Diggs says:

    Thank you Lisa, I’m a descendant of Celia Artis, Eliza Artis, Frances Diggs, Margaret Diggs, Rommie Diggs, Jasper Diggs, James A. Diggs to James A. Diggs, II (me). This is great and would like to find out more. I was born in DC now living in Wilson, NC. I would like to know my Reid relatives and are we kin to Elder Watson Diggs, Founder of Kappa Alpha Psi?

  8. Freddie Wilson says:

    Could this be Related to Celia? John Jack Wilson was born in 1812. He had one child with Mary Ann Warner and one child with Zilpha Artis. He died in 1855 in Lambeth, Surrey, England, at the age of 43.

    When Eliza Wilson was born in 1852, her father, John, was 40, and her mother, Mary, was 28. She lost her father when she was only 3 years old. She had one brother.

    Eliza’s family
    No known children Eliza Wilson Parents

    John Jack Wilson

    Mary Ann Warner

    Life Events
    * Edit

Eliza Wilson was born in 1852 to Mary Ann Warner, age 28, and John Jack Wilson, age 40.
1852 • Lambeth St Mary, England

    * Death of Father

Her father John Jack passed away in 1855 in Lambeth, Surrey, England, at the age of 43.

John Jack Wilson

1855 • Lambeth, SurreyA~~

    Save Print Share
    William Sherry Wilson
    in the London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1920

    • This is a completely different John Wilson than the John Wilson who married Zilpha Artis. (Zilpha was a daughter of Vicey Artis and Solomon Williams, not Celia Artis.) John Wilson neither lived nor died in England, and he and Zilpha Artis Wilson had many children.

  9. Freddie Wilson says:

    I can’t find John Jack Wilson and zilpha Artis Wilson marriage and kids anywhere. I also can’t find John’s father John Wilson birthplace either. I discovered that I have 11.1% European/Caucasian blood in my DNA. My uncle Freddie Wilson was very light skinned and mixed. One of my cousins informed me that he caught he’ll from being mixed white/black when they picked cotton coming up in the Wilson/Eureca area. Sorry I am only new to researching my Ancestry.

    • Many free people of color in Wayne County did not obtain formal marriage licenses. Jack and Zilpha’s 5 children are listed in the 1870 and 1880 censuses, and I have blogged about them. Caught hell how? The Artises were mixed race, and many were (and still are today) very very light-skinned. I’m almost 40% Euro as a result of generations of mixed-race people marrying.

  10. Freddie Wilson (UK) says:

    I am confused by this story line. Select a profile image for John Jack Wilson.
    John Jack Wilson
    BIRTH 1812
    DEATH 1855 • Lambeth, Surrey
    Add MyTreeTags™
    Research tabs
    LifeStory Facts Gallery Hints5
    Show Add
    John Jack Wilson was born in 1812, the son of Mary. He had one child with Mary Ann Warner, one child with Zilpha Artis, and one child with Mary Ann Wilson. He died in 1855 in Lambeth, Surrey, England, at the age of 43.
    John’s family
    Eliza Wilson
    + 1 Child
    John Jack Wilson
    Zilpha Artis
    + 2 Spouses
    Unknown father
    Mary Warner
    John’s map
    Show mapDeath: 1855 • Lambeth, Surrey
    Life Events
    John Jack Wilson was born in 1812 to Mary Warner.
    John Jack Wilson died in 1855 in Lambeth, Surrey, England, when he was 43 years old.
    1855 • Lambeth, Surrey

    • Freddie, Ancestry is full of trees containing inaccurate information that people have posted. Ancestry then pulls this bad info into suggested life stories that are completely WRONG. Ignore this info about England. Jack and Zilpha Wilson were in Wayne County NC in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. They presumably married in the early 1860s and their children included William, Louisa, Elizabeth, John Adam, and Vicey.

  11. Freddie Wilson down from William and Willie and Adam Wilson’s son says:

    Thank You i just saw a few of my links down from Solomon Williams.

    • What’s your evidence that he died in Brooklyn in 1885? Or rather, what is your evidence that the John Wilson who died in Brooklyn in 1885 is the same John Wilson who lived in Wayne County NC? Also, his daughter was named Vicey (after her maternal grandmother), not Vicky.

  12. Freddie Wilson says:

    Children (5)
    Vicky Wilson B: 1870
    Adam Wilson B: 1867
    Elizabeth Wilson B: 1866
    Luczar Wilson B: 1858
    Williams Wilson B: 1856

    John Wilson
    B:Abt 1812 in North Carolina
    D:3 Feb 1885 in New York City, New York, USA
    Zilpha ArtisB:abt 1828 in N. C.


  13. Do you happen to have any more information on Spias Ward? I think he may be my 5th great-grandfather.

    Also, there are some Artis’ in my family by marriage. I’m not sure what you might need, but I have a little bit of info on them.

  14. James Diggs says:

    hello Lisa, a few years ago I left you a message regarding Celia Artis and Roda Ried. I also had questions about the Diggs Family. This is a repost:

    Thank you Lisa, I’m a descendant of Celia Artis, Eliza Artis, Frances Diggs, Margaret Diggs, Rommie Diggs, Jasper Diggs, James A. Diggs to James A. Diggs, II (me). This is great and would like to find out more. I was born in DC now living in Wilson, NC. I would like to know my Reid relatives and are we kin to Elder Watson Diggs, Founder of Kappa Alpha Psi?

    • Hi, James. I have posted the information I have about the Artis-Diggs family. Elder Watson Diggs was born in Kentucky in 1883, and I believe it doubtful that he has any kinship link to Frances Diggs or her descendants.

      • James Diggs says:

        Thank you, Lisa! I appreciate all of your work. Can you provide me with information about my Reid family? I’ve been trying to find pictures of my great-grandmother Bessie who married my great-grandfather Rommie Diggs. My great aunt, Arbor Fox now living in Greenville does not have pictures of her mother Bessie Reid. It would be nice to provide her with pictures.

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